With the demise to Tommy (front and center), the true fathers of punk are reunited forever.
I awoke this morning after the first uninterrupted night of sleep I've had in a month, feeling like a million bucks, only to turn on the CBS Morning News and have the first thing I see be coverage of the death of Thomas Erdelyi, best known to the world at large as Tommy Ramone, the original drummer to the seminal American punk band, the one and only Ramones. Dead after battling cancer, Tommy was the last surviving original member of the band, playing on their first three albums, an aural triptych that laid the foundation for '70's-era punk (and beyond) and influenced nearly four decades of badass rockers.
The original lineup of the Ramones, in their prime and kicking ass.
While not exactly a surprise, this news comes as a personal blow to myself — and no doubt to many within my age range — as the Ramones were one of the formative building blocks upon which my musical tastes were built. I first discovered them in 1979, when I was given a copy of the band's END OF THE CENTURY album, which was won by a friend in a radio contest, and I enjoyed it so much that I checked out the albums that came before. Tommy was gone from the lineup by the time of END OF THE CENTURY and when I listened to the first three albums, I was blown away by his no-frills but utterly riveting beating of the skins. In my opinion, the original lineup of the Ramones was a case of rock 'n' roll lightning in a bottle, band that was absolutely the right thing at the right time and a powerful antidote to the disco that was a plague upon this land. And though the Ramones never enjoyed the popular and financial success that they so richly deserved, their influence as pioneers is beyond dispute. Their sound was singular, marked with a distinctly NYC sensibility and understanding of the world's gray (and sometimes darker) areas, while also observing the world's lunacy with a sense of humor that was equal parts mordant and cheerfully sophomoric. A celebration of suburban freakdom and misfit pride/solidarity, the Ramones spoke to me and many other adolescent square pegs in terms that we understood deep within our hearts, minds, and other-than-perfect flesh, and for that I will forever be in their debt.
With the death of Tommy, the original Ramones lineup is finally reunited in whatever passes for a seedy venue somewhere in the Elysian Fields, there to crank out loud, fast, buzz saw rakka-frakka, with the enticing come-on of "Hey-Ho! Let's go!" ensuring that the legion of shades (who are no doubt a tad sick of all that treacly lyre music) can eternal rock out with their cocks out. Truly, it is the end of an era.